Book Review: The Un-Soothing Melody of ‘Taduno’s Song’ by Odafe Atogun

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Book Title: Taduno’s Song

Author: Odafe Atogun

Publisher: Canongate Books, 2016

No of Pages: 156

Reviewer: Joseph Omotayo

In this book, there is a celebration of love against jarring odds. Taduno’s Song uses music to reflect the face of activism under a repressive and dictatorial military government. The book is set in Nigeria around the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Election. This novella attempts to show various human responses to suppression and oppressive state power. Moreso, Odafe Atogun uses these responses to portray the extent to which human survival is negotiated.

In a farcical setting where music is seen as a great threat to state power, Taduno’s song shows how the music of the eponymous character is the only liberation for his people. Taduno thus bears the burden of a nation. With a guitar and a voice that threatens the legitimacy of the military government, Taduno is constantly haunted until he goes into exile. With a nondescript letter from Taduno’s lover, Lela, Taduno scurries out of hiding after many months. However, the hope of reuniting with Lela is soon thwarted when the people he had always known suffer a collective amnesia that erases his identity and his music – nobody knows who Taduno is or if he ever existed. Taduno thus becomes a stranger. Another calamity soon befalls Taduno when he realises Lela has been kidnapped by the military government as a bait to get him. In saving his lover, Taduno must reach a compromise to use his tool of activism to praise the government he contends with. This book explores Taduno’s dilemma at preserving love at the expense of saving those who look to his music for reprieve.

Taduno’s Song is an interesting story of love and overcoming, but it is not quite a great book. It is a short read to while away time. It however did not meet my need for serious fiction. It reads like some hastily published Junior Secondary School texts I have come across. Sometimes a review gets tough because there is nothing to say about a book other than say the book is good or bad. With Taduno’s Song however, there are many reasons to show why it is not promising.

For one, this book is a simplified story with a plot that is deficient in intrigue. The book only packs a tepid suspense at the nadir of the conflict following the negotiation between Taduno and the Head of State of the military government. Taduno’s Song falls below par for me, especially with its monotonous narrative. I kept looking at the different things that could save it but Taduno’s Song falls supine at all levels of measuring good fiction.

On a rating of ten for characterisation, I could grudgingly give it five – It’s only average at best. Only a few characters save this book’s characterisation: Taduno because he is the main character; and the President because yes all military head of states are interesting stereotypical characters. I wanted to relate with Lela, but I just couldn’t. That character is not only unbelievable but most of her actions just do not add up. One of them is this: how does a naïve girl like Lela learn to slip constant covert letters to Taduno under a military incarceration? How is that possible? Also, I think Aroli would have been an interesting character but his swift connection with Taduno even while he suffers the aforementioned collective amnesia is only a lazy attempt at believability. This is one of the many loopholes in the book. They all make the book read like a hurried movie scrip. Very Nollywood-ish.

Taduno’s Song comes across as a book published too soon. Were it not hurried, it may have turned out better, in my opinion.


Joseph Omotayo

Joseph Omotayo is a book critic, event planner and webmaster.

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